Barking seals

While visiting my sister-in-law and combing her library for something to read before sleeping, I ran across a book I remember by its distinctive dust jacket as a Christmas gift, given somewhere in the family in the early 50s. James Thurber’s The Thurber Album (1952) is a collection of prose portraits of people from his youth in Columbus OH, most of them originally published in the New Yorker. Thurber starts a profile of his father (“Gentleman from Indiana”) with this object lesson in storytelling (especially felicitous phrases in bold):

One day in the summer of 1900, my father was riding a lemon-yellow bicycle that went to pieces in a gleaming and tangled moment, its crossbar falling, the seat sagging, the handle bars buckling, the front wheel hitting the curb and twisting the tire from the rim. He had to carry the wreck home amidst laughter and cries of “Get a horse!” He was a good rider and the first president of the Columbus Bicycle Club, but he was always mightily plagued by the mechanical. He was also plagued by the manufactured, which takes in a great deal more ground. Knobs froze at his touch, doors stuck, lines fouled, the detachable would not detach, the adjustable would not adjust. He could rarely get the top off anything, and he was forever trying to unlock something with the key to something else. In 1908, trying to fix the snap lock on the door of his sons’ rabbit pen, he succeeded only after getting inside the cage, where he was imprisoned for three hours with six Belgian hares and thirteen guinea pigs. He had to squat through this ordeal, a posture he elected to endure after attempting to rise and bashing his derby against the chicken wire across the top of the pen.

Time to quarry the Complete New Yorker for more Thurber…